Nothing keeps Christ in Christmas like our annual viewing of The Lord of the Rings. Now before you accuse me of sarcasm or heresy, consider that Tolkien’s Christian worldview shines brightly through every line of his books as well as through all twelve hours of the extended versions of Peter Jackson’s adaptation. Against all odds, as the irresistible darkness, oppression and malice of a Dark Lord covers the world in shadow and sorrow, salvation comes to the ruined race of men from the most unlikely of heroes. Like all great epic tales, great odds are overcome and great courage is exercised as common men perform uncommon deeds.
Tolkien’s magnum opus is filled with many nuggets of wisdom, spoken at salient points. In one exchange, the main character, Frodo laments, “I wish the ring had never come to me,” as bearing it had become unbearable. His friend, Gandalf responds, “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’” But not all the quotable quotes have such gravitas. Gimli, a dwarf, who provides no end of comic relief, quips when facing the prospect of a futile frontal assault on the Dark Lord’s stronghold, “certainty of death, small chance of success – what are we waiting for?”
The Lord of the Rings is a powerful story of courage, friendship, and redemption, eclipsed only by what its author once called “the only true myth” – the gospel. The gospel is a story that is so unlikely, in which common men, empowered by faith, perform uncommon deeds and in which the ruined race of men is gloriously redeemed by a mighty hero, who took on the form of a servant and humbled himself, even to death on a cross. The gospel is a story of unlikely converts, not of men whose moral excellence made them acceptable to God or earned his favor, nor men of power whose mighty deeds destroyed the power of their great enemies, death and the devil. No, the gospel is a story of the weak and powerless, snatched as burning brands from the fire.
Nowhere is this seen more powerfully than in Luke 2 – a passage sometimes called, “the Christmas story.” Here the Lord of glory is born into quiet obscurity while the only announcement is given to shepherds, the most despised and outcast class of society. These enigmatic shepherds were the most unlikely of converts — men who were notoriously under suspicion, who were rejected from temple worship due to their habitual and ritual uncleanness, and whose word was not acceptable in the courts. If anyone had hope to receive God’s goodwill and favor because of their works it was not these men.
Yet these were the men to whom God announced, “for unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Unto “you!” No one gave these men anything, but unto them God had given a savior! Luther once wrote that “the gospel is in the personal pronouns.” Like them, if we hope to receive God’s goodwill and favor because of our works, then we are sorely mistaken. But the good news is that a savior has been born to us, Christ the Lord. For you see, we are all the most unlikely of converts!
Join us this Lord’s Day, December 16, as we examine the story of the shepherds in Luke 2 and consider God’s powerful plan to save the most unlikely of converts. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.